The crew of Camper have made a solid start to the five-day sprint from Lisbon to Lorient, confident they can stick with the "Juan K" boats in the penultimate leg of the Volvo Ocean Race.
Naval architect Juan Kouyoumdjian designed the winning boats in the past two editions of this race, and is the designer of the three leading boats in this race - Groupama, Telefonica and Puma.
With the conditions for the first few days of this leg likely to produce jib or fractional zero reaching, Camper skipper Chris Nicholson feels his boat will be okay.
"We'll hang in there with the Juan K boats until the Azores," he says. "I think it's all looking pretty quick - some are saying five days but I don't believe that, I think it will be more like six days. But it's a fairly quick trip to Lorient and we could get a lot of breeze on the way back from the Azores to Lorient."
Camper started well this morning, as the second boat out to sea after completing the inshore course just behind Puma.
At the 9am NZ time report, the New Zealand-flagged boat was less than a mile behind Telefonica, with Puma and Abu Dhabi Racing in between them.
Once the boats wriggle through the light airs of the Azores High, it's likely to be heavy weather running into Lorient - which could also spell carnage.
"I'm hoping it's a big [low pressure] system which it's possibly shaping up to be," Nicholson says. "We haven't seen these boats running in 30 knots plus so it would be like a whole new field to play on."
With Camper fourth on the overall race leaderboard, Nicholson hasn't given up hope of victory.
"This is a vital leg for us and we can still absolutely win this race especially when you've got a forecast like this. The boats haven't sailed in this much breeze and so boats will break. We're hoping we're not one of them, but boats will definitely break in those conditions. Or, you have to throttle back a long way.
"There's a lot of risk and reward on this leg. We understand the points, we understand the fleet's position and we have faith in our team and in our boat - we're in this to win."
- Boating NZ
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